Thursday, December 11, 2008

sydney

to migrate in sydney or not? this time, my trip was more than just my usual holiday - i wanted to see for myself how life in sydney is(if that is even possible for a 5-day trip). was i ready for a change and leave my relatively comfortable life in singapore for starting all over again in australia?

first things first, simon and i decided to see what we can do during weekends if we move in sydney(he insists that he will also migrate with me hehe). so from the airport, we drived for around 2 hours to check out the city's weekend getaway - blue mountains.

our first stop was the lookout point for the three sisters. they are rock formations(around 900 meters high each) formed by erosion. legend says that they used to be three beautiful sisters who fell in love with men from another tribe. a marriage with that tribe was forbidden so a war took place and so to protect or maybe hide(?) the three sisters, a witch doctor turned them into stones. the witch doctor died from the war though so they remained as stones until now.



the three sisters

we did a bit of hiking to see the katoomba falls and leura cascades. there are lots of activities to do in the national park - bushwalking, camping, cycling. very promising! if we had more time, it would be nice to just spend a couple of days in the mountains. before leaving, since we are tourists anyway, we tried the katoomba scenic railway(world's steepest railway) and the glass-bottomed cablecar scenic skyway.


sydney's anzac bridge


for dinner, we met with beng, chel and alvin with his family somewhere near the darling harbour. they gave us a walking tour of the city, it was also halloween that night and we saw grown-ups in silly costumes - my favorite was a teenage mutant ninja turtle guy. our highlight of the evening was the white-sailed sydney opera house of course, WOW! it was a really stunning work of architecture from afar and up-close.

korean dinner with chel, beng and alvin

walking around the city

sydney opera house
“I have made a sculpture . . . you will never be finished with it – when you pass around it or see it against the sky . . . something new goes on all the time . . . together with the sun, the light and the clouds, it makes a living thing.” - Jørn Utzon, Sydney Opera House Architect, 1918-2008

sydney opera house with simon, chel and beng

elegant fine dining inside the opera house
sydney harbour bridge
chel with a masked man

during the next few days, we did some more exploring...


holy moley, a shop in sydney

town hall(i think), while walking around the city
theseus, vanquisher of the minotaur, archibald fountain. at the background is the st. mary's cathedral. inside the gothic church, the priest was playing on the organ the eerie toccata and fugue "dracula music" by js bach. we enjoyed walking around the church with the excellent music :)

anzac bridge on the left, sunset in sydney
dinner at lord nelson's at the rocks, sydney's oldest pub. they brew their own beer, and they got yummy pies too. yum for 6 dollars!
at the rocks with chel and beng

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

croc spotting in daintree

yup, we caved in and joined a crocodile spotting river cruise. the tour was actually called mangrove adventures by dan irby. it was a two-hour sunset cruise and there were only 8 people in our small boat, in fact we were the only boat in the river that night. (we saw a tiny boat with two locals fishing but that doesnt count because they're almost part of the scenery anyway)

we first explored the small tributaries where dan spotted for us colorful kingfishers, beautiful gum trees that lean over the river and gives such an enchanted reflection, exotic million old plants (cant remember the names though), and muddy areas where he said crocs like to hang out. we can enter these waterways because his boat is small, dan said there are only two boats in daintree that can do that.

as the sun began to set, we glided to the wider part of the river where we saw a big group of egrets began to roost on some trees. when it got too dark to see anything, dan turned on his flashlight and looked for nocturnal creatures. we spotted huge fruitbats, green tree frogs and 2 juvenile crocodiles! later on under the starry starry sky, dan identified several constellations for us. it was magical :)


daintree river



our small boat


dan with the green tree frog


a green tree frog


a juvenile croc

earlier that day in daintree:


car ferry to daintree


beware of stingers


giant tree in cape tribulation

the view was amazing when we drived back from port douglas to cairns.


the view from captain cook highway


updraught hand gliding just next to the highway

we were just looking for a cafe to grab some lunch when we stopped by in palm cove and fell in love with the place. we ended up spending the rest of the day and one night in this "spa and wedding destination".


palm cove's melaleuca tree-lined street just next to the beach


simon with a giant century old melaleuca tree (also known as paperbarks)


palm cove beach - recently awarded as australia's cleanest beach. its true!


daintree tour:
dan irby's mangrove adventures
http://www.mangroveadventures.com.au/
tel no 07/40907017
make an advance reservation with dan because his boat can only accomodate no more than 10 people.
2-hour sunset cruise for 50aud
meeting place was the daintree ecolodge just a few kilometers after daintree village

Saturday, December 06, 2008

si rapunzel

birthday nya nung isang araw! nung huli kami nagkita nung isang buwan, di na daw sya kumakanta?! sayang ang boses mo shakira, birthday wish ko ay umawit ka na ulit. at magkatuluyan na kayo ni auggie. hehe. o ni don?


si beng sa akyat namin sa "susmaryosep!" na mt guiting guiting

Sunday, November 30, 2008

port douglas

"are you sure you wont need motion sickness pills tomorrow?" simon asked me for the second time.

"aaah no need! i think im getting too dependent on those drugs anyway. maybe its all in my mind." i say confidently.

we were strolling along a charming street in port douglas lined with sidewalk cafes, small shops and a couple of holiday operators. the small town is a popular base for either diving in the great barrier reef or exploring the daintree rainforest. and we just signed up for a day trip dive the following day, i was too excited to give some thought to something as trivial as me getting seasick.

"if we enjoy the dive tomorrow, and of course we will! we can dive again the day after next?" i was still pumped up from all the pictures we've seen in the dive shop operator - whales, manta rays, sharks and excellent underwater visibility.

"we will see tomorrow ok?" simon likes to dive but he has limits like me unfortunately. we realized this when we went diving for 3 straight days in sipadan. we were exhausted from all that diving while jao and sym wanted to dive some more.


around port douglas

the next day...

"if you are prone to motion sickness, i hope you took some pills before getting on this boat. if you didnt, its too late to take them now. we will pass around ice cubes you can suck to help if youre dizzy and biodegradable paperbags in case you need to throw up." the marine biologist announced when we got on the very modern haba boat.

"it cant be that bad right?" i asked simon nervously.

30 minutes later, i was throwing up in my paperbag. the boat ride was so rough that if i try to stand up, i can easily be get thrown around the boat. and it took us 1 hour 30 minutes just to reach the first dive site. i was one of the few people who got out of the cabin to get some fresh air while desperately trying to look at the horizon because they say that helps. it didnt. neither did the ice cubes.


inside the haba boat

i wasnt in the mood for diving anymore but they said it might help since its calmer underwater. it didnt. and i was stupid to believe the divemaster when he said the water was warm. i just wore board shorts and a rashguard and i was shivering underwater. the dm was cold as well as i can see his arms got goosebumps while underwater.


corals of opal reef (bashful balmy dive site)

what can i say? our guidebook said "its the only living structure on earth visible from the moon; at 348,700 sq km, its bigger than the united kingdom; its 2,000 km long, its home to 1,500 kinds of fish, 400 species of corals, etc, etc, etc". you get the drift right? honestly we were not that impressed on our first dive. maybe it has something to do with me being dizzy but simon was in a good shape and he wasnt overwhelmed either. the corals were pretty but we didnt see a lot of fish. damselfish here and there, a couple of anemone with their resident clownfish, some colorful parrotfish, some sea cucumber.

there was only a 20 minute-break between the first and second dive, and i wasnt up to it yet so i just tried to sleep in the deck instead. im not sure if simon was trying to make me feel better but he said the second dive was pretty much the same as the first one so i didnt miss much. lunch was served but i didnt dare eat, later on the boat moved to the next dive site. i felt a lot better on the last dive, i wore a shorties wetsuit to battle the cold and finally i got to appreciate the corals. still not a lot of fish, we saw one small blue spotted stingray and one moray eel and the usual fusiliers. the hard corals were healthy though, there was this big patch wherein you could not see the sandy bottom anymore because of all the corals.


a small blue spotted stingray (at two tone dive site)


nice hard corals but where are the fish? (at two tone dive site)


simon with his funny mask. its a mask with built-in ear cups to help him equalize.

needless to say, no more diving for the rest of the australia trip for us after that.


where are you? im in a meeting. hehe


boats for rent in port douglas marina


our 2-bedroom apartment unit at nimrod resort



where to stay:
nimrod apartments
www.stayz.com.au
we got a 1 bedroom with personal laundry, kitchenette, living room, balcony for 83 aud.

where to rent a car:
http://www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au/
203aud for 4 days rental of a hyundai getz

dive operator:
haba great barrier reef adventure
www.habadive.com.au/
day trip dive in the outer reef for 242 aud. includes:
- coach transfer from our accomodation to the marina and back
- coffee/tea/muffins
- lunch buffet
- 2 dives
- equipment rental
- marine biologist to identify fish
- environmental fee
simon added 20aud for 1 more dive

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

darwin

i recently got my australian immigrant visa - that was my excuse for going there. the truth was i bought my ticket long before my visa arrived, jetstar had a good promo early this year. i was required to make an initial entry to the country(why? i still dont know), so it was a good time to do it and do some exploring at the same time.

the flight to darwin was my longest flight to date - 4.5 hours hehe. it was my first trip out of asia.

we arrived at some crazy hour in the morning - around 5am, but we can only checkin to our hotel by 11am so we grabbed some maps at a garage, and decided to checkout the nearby casuarina beach. i got excited as the first thing we saw was a sign to the nudist beach, we took one picture of the sign and then my slr camera conked out on me. simon reckoned the heavy paperweight slash camera couldnt handle the heat. october/november is the last part of the dry season and i guess the heat can drive the locals crazy as well as cameras.


nudist beach ahead

we just walked on the beach which was quite nice, darwin's beaches are a no-swim zone all year round though because of crocodiles and stingers. we didnt even attempt to go the nudist beach this early in the morning so we just stopped on cullen bay for a much needed breakfast.


breakfast at cullen bay with nice boats on the background



dragonboats at cullen bay

we drived around town but there wasnt really much happening there, most shops and cafes were still closed and the heat was no help at all so we just waited and fell asleep in the car, it was 39 degrees outside. we checked in soon enough to alatai apartments which was perfect because our rooom was airconditioned and dark and we slept some more.

later that day, we tried the local fish and chips and beer and since there wasnt much to see in the town, we spent our time in the esplanade park watching the locals jog/walk their dogs/play cricket while waiting for the sunset.


having a rest at the park


darwin's sunset

kakadu national park is australia's largest national park covering 1.7 million hectares and the most popular destination in darwin but it was too big for a day trip so we opt to see the smaller litchfield park instead. im not sure you can describe litchfield as small because its still more than twice as big as singapore!


it was a 90 minute drive to litcfield and we had yummy hot dogs for lunch at the hot dog lady along the highway

one of the first attractions we saw in the park were these huge magnetic termite mounds. We read somewhere that the entire structure is made up of termite spit and poo. haha!


Can you see the termite?


lotsa magnetic termite mounds

our next stop was the buley rockhole, a series of pools where we found people enjoying the water and having some picnic. most of the swimming holes in the park are croc-free and people already swimming was a good indication for us that there were no crocs lurking. it was very refreshing in the swimming hole especially since its already 43 degrees celsius outside the water.

buley rockhole


me looking catatonic because of the heat

from buley rockhole, its a few minutes hike down the unbelievably gorgeous florence falls - its hands down the most beautiful waterfalls ive ever seen. wow!


florence falls



simon at florence waterfalls lookout

as much as we wanted to spend the rest of the day in the florence plunge pool, we still have loads to see in the park so our next stop was the lost city. we originally rented a small car but the rental company upgraded it to an xtrail 4WD and we took advantage of this because the road to the lost city was a 4WD only.


at the lost city

the lost city was a bit of a joke for us, we drived on a very dusty and rough road for maybe 30 minutes one-way and we expected to see a lost city maybe? the park's pamphlet said "The complex freestanding sandstone block and pillar formations of the Lost City, in Litchfield National Park, suggest the ruins of a long forgotten civilisation." we saw big rocks alright but thats just about it. and a fleet of annoying flies. we got lost in the lost city - we couldnt find our car. in the meanwhile, those flies harrassed us all the way.


at the lost city


annoying flies


tree pose


we got lost in the lost city

there were still lots to see but the sun was about to set soon so for our last stop, we headed to the wangi falls. it was surrounded by a forest and you would think the plunge pool was manmade because it was almost a perfect circle. lovely! we reckoned it would be more beautiful during the wet season when the waterfalls is a lot stronger. we were the last people in the falls and i kept on imagining a crocodile would emerge from the forest but of course it was only my imagination. definitely this was our favorite place in darwin.


wangi falls

where to stay:
alatai holiday apartments in finnis street
www.stayz.com.au
we got a studio-type room with personal laundry, kitchenette, balcony for 99 aud.

where to rent a car:
http://www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au/
93aud for 2 days rental of a hyundai getz

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